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Innovative education MBA program to expand

Woodrow-Lilly-Ed MBA presserFrom left at today’s announcement are Margaret Hoernemann, superintendent of Avon Community Schools; Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation; N. Clay Robbins, president and CEO of Lilly Endowment Inc.; and UIndy President Robert Manuel.

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Philanthropy News Digest

Lilly Endowment pledges $14.48 million toward Woodrow Wilson fellowships

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has announced that its initiative to improve the preparation of district, traditional public, and charter school leaders will expand from one Indiana higher education institution to three, thanks to a major new grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

WW logoThe Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation will receive $14,482,405 from Lilly Endowment in support of its MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership program, first established in Indiana at the University of Indianapolis in November 2013. The news was announced today at UIndy, where 15 educators from throughout Indiana began the program this summer.

The funds will be used both to extend the program at the University of Indianapolis and to create similar programs at two more Indiana institutions. The overarching goal of the WW MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership program is to increase the quality and relevance of principal and superintendent education.

“We are deeply grateful for Lilly Endowment’s support of this Fellowship program,” said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. “Our country has shifted from a national, analog, industrial economy to a global, digital, knowledge-based economy. This has profound implications for our education system and for the things leaders of schools, school districts, and charter organizations need to know and do. In this environment, a degree that applies the curriculum and content of an MBA to education promises to prepare a new generation of principals and superintendents to lead our schools and school districts in an era of dramatic change.”

A national study by Levine makes clear that school leaders play an important role in student achievement, yet many current M.Ed and Ed.D. programs need even more selectivity and rigor. The WW MBA Fellowship program—one of a handful of education MBA programs nationwide and the only one with its blend of resources and clinical work—is designed as a new model of principal and superintendent preparation.

The WW MBA Fellowship program seeks to prepare education leaders to drive innovation, expand the use of analytics and evidence-based practices, raise student performance to international standards, and improve the quality of school systems and teaching over time. The intensive, highly selective program blends an education-based business curriculum with clinical experience in schools, corporations and nonprofits, as well as involvement with innovative schools abroad.

UIndy logo (with dog)-201&blkUIndy’s rigorous 13-month program launched this summer with an inaugural cohort of 15 aspiring leaders representing 11 public school districts in Marion, Johnson, Hendricks, and Hamilton counties, as well as Gary Lighthouse Charter School. Designed collaboratively by faculty from the university’s School of Business and School of Education, it includes courses in data analysis, entrepreneurship, change leadership, communications and marketing, finance, law, human resources and economic development.

The UIndy program essentially allows schools and districts to cultivate new leaders from within their ranks, and the fellows are able to apply their new knowledge immediately to the real issues they face at work. Each Fellow receives a $50,000 stipend, which covers full tuition, technology, some living expenses and a fully paid international travel experience. In exchange, each agrees to serve in a leadership role in his or her school or district for at least three years, with Foundation-supported mentoring.

Education professionals are nominated as Fellows by their school districts or charter school leaders, and a key element of the program is the district’s support for and engagement in the Fellow’s education. Kari Serak of Brownsburg, a member of the inaugural class of Fellows, said, “This program means my school corporation believes that I can be an agent of change in our district. It means that I have the opportunity to learn what other highly effective school districts, both locally and globally, are doing and how their work could improve our practice as a district. This program gives me the opportunity to create systems and processes for schools that will allow our students to gain skills in order to compete globally.”

LeAnn Buntrock, former head of the noted education leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, is national director of the WW MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership and has helped to shape it.

The program also draws on the Foundation’s experience with the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, which recruits very able candidates to teach in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) in high-need schools and also works to transform teacher education. The Endowment was the primary funder of the WW Teaching Fellowship in Indiana, the nation’s first WW Teaching Fellowship. Launched in 2007 with Endowment funding that would eventually total more than $15 million, the Teaching Fellowship is now funded through the state of Indiana.

Levine said that the Foundation would conduct a statewide review of institutions to determine which would be most able and willing to blend a strong MBA program in an existing business school with a new education leadership focus. A determination on which new campuses will join the program is expected by year’s end.

Applications to the WW MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership are available by nomination only. To learn more, visit or


About the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation ( identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly and his two sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., with gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical company. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at

About UIndy
The University of Indianapolis is a private, comprehensive institution of higher education founded in 1902, with a home campus of 5,400 students and partnership sites around the world. UIndy offers a strong liberal arts foundation along with cutting-edge business and professional preparation in a close-knit community that enjoys the opportunities and amenities of a major city. More information is available at